Retailer and designer Ricardo Campa speaks to WGSN’s Jian DeLeon on why Mexico City is experiencing a bustling alternative retail and streetwear industry.
Ricardo Campa opened his first shop in Mexico 12-years-ago. Then called Culto, he moved to Vancouver, Canada and opened up a second shop, named Headquarter. He rebranded his Mexico City store to consolidate his company, and after moving back from Vancouver in 2013, currently owns Headquarter in Colonia Roma, and the recently-opened Kamikaze shop across the street.
In addition, he’s the creative mind behind Rage Handcraft, which specialises in hand-beaded art pieces ranging from human and animal skulls to non-functional weapons like guns, grenades, and brass knuckles. His latest project is called Naménk, an upcoming line of intricately embroidered accessories and housewares made in conjunction with Mexican artisans.
He’s collaborated with global stores like Colette in Paris and Kinfolk in Brooklyn, and has a unique perspective on the evolution of Mexican menswear retail. We interviewed the industry veteran on the rise of street culture in Mexico, and how subcultures like skateboarding and rebellious fashion brands are subverting the old paradigms in order to carve their own identity and lane.
What influences Mexico City’s style and culture?
We are really close to the states, so the big influence we have is America. Our concept of streetwear and the idea of streetwear in Mexico is different. Skate is seen as big in Mexico. But if we talk about the ‘80s—there was nothing here. We didn’t have stores and boutiques like now. We went a lot to flea markets, and we discovered things from guys that crossed the border, bought some stuff from the states, and brought it here.
That time was interesting for me too, because the people dressed with the stuff they could find. I think that’s the thing with streetwear in Mexico—it’s not like you just “wear” streetwear. It’s what you do, how you work, and the music you listen to. It’s a lifestyle. You can wear different things and still be a “street guy.” It’s more about your lifestyle, your concepts, and who you are.
Have you seen streetwear style getting more popular?
The fashion movement is growing in Mexico. There are more designers. But in Mexico we need to have more quality. Some people like to design and produce, but they aren’t really focused on the quality.
‘I understand why, because most Mexican fashion is local—it’s for the Mexican consumer. But my thought is—why can’t we be international? Why can’t we put our brands in the Louvre?’
That’s why sometimes I’m a little bit depressed about it, because we have a lot of really good ideas, and our best aspect is we have a lot of creativity. But sometimes that creativity is pushed to be local. For me, when I think about a project that I want to do, I think internationally.
Infamous figures like Pablo Escobar and “El Chapo” have inspired some offerings by local shops like Lucky Bastard, and are embraced by American street culture as anti-heroes. What’s their influence on Mexican streetwear?
There’s a brand called Crack and Cocaine. Those kids are thinking more about what they want to express. They really enjoy the streets and that gangster stuff. They decided to create their own line, and their own delivery channel. They say: “You know what? I don’t have a shop. I don’t sell in a flea market.” So they use Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, and they sell t-shirts at metro stations. And they’re starting to make a big movement. They’re creating gangster t-shirts, and they sell about 100 t-shirts every release. They have lines of 20-50 people waiting for them.
What do you think is the Mexican influence on a global cultural level?
A lot of representation that Mexico has in the industry is when designers from London, Paris, or Tokyo come here, take inspiration, and put it on a different level. For example, Visvim has a shoe material called the “Mayan.” They come through the Mayan community, and they do the embroidery for them. But my question is:
‘Why isn’t Mexico doing that? Why are other people coming and doing it, and doing it at that level?’
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